Everlasting God – our hope, our strong deliverer

2 07 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY THREE : 2 Samuel 18 v. 19 – 19 v. 43; Acts 7 v. 44 – 8 v. 3; Psalm 73 v. 1 – 14

David Mourns – Zadok’s son, Ahimaaz, offers to take the news of Absalom’s death to David, but Joab chooses a Cushite to break the bad news to the king. Ahimaaz insists he goes too, and Joab lets him.
Ahimaaz outruns the Cushite, and David sees him coming; the news he brings is good – ‘All is well! God has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my lord the king’.
Ahimaaz claims he knows nothing of the fate of Absalom, but then the Cushite arrives with the devastating news that Absalom is dead.
David goes into mourning…’and for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’
Joab has to go to see the king, to chastise him for mourning instead of celebrating the victory over his enemies. It sounds like a pretty bold and harsh telling off my Joab, but he fears that all the men will turn against David again if he doesn’t ‘go out and encourage your men.
So, David goes and takes his seat in the gateway of the city, and all the men came to him.

Tough day for David, the leader, challenged to rise above his own grief, to honour the victory of his army. Leadership can be a lonely path at times.

David Returns to Jerusalem –
It seems that all Israel is in disarray – they had been followers of David, then Absalom, and they are wondering who is going to lead them now.
David appeals to the leaders of Judah to welcome him back as king, and invites Amasa to be commander of the army in place of Joab.
‘He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man.’
So the king returned as far as the Jordan.
A posse of Benjaminites go out to meet king David at the Jordan (including Ziba, Saul’s steward). Shimei falls prostrated before the king, confessing his sin (he had thrown stones and cursed David and his men earlier (ch.16))
Abishai suggests Shimei should be put to death, for cursing David earlier. But David is having a good day, remembering the victory he had won, and thanking God that he is restored to the kingdom. He says, ‘Should anyone be put to death in Israel today?…You shall not die.’
Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also goes to see king David. He has let himself go a bit whilst David has been away, not looking after his feet, or washing, and letting his moustache grow and grow. David asks him why he didn’t go with him, and Mephibosheth reminds David of his disability, and that Ziba had misled the king, and in doing so had inherited all Saul’s estate. Mephibosheth appeals to the king to be merciful towards him.
‘My Lord, the king, is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you…’
David commands that Saul’s estate is split between Ziba and Mephibosheth, but Mephibosheth says he is happy for Ziba to have the lot, so long as it is king David in Jerusalem.
Then Barzillai from Gilead arrives – he had previously helped David when he was staying in Mahanaim – now he is a very old man, and David invites him to journey with them back to Jerusalem where he would look after him well in his old age. Barzillai urges David to take his Kimham with him instead of himself, because he is now eighty years old, would be a burden to David and would rather return to his home town. David is happy that ‘anything you desire from me I will do for you.’
They cross the Jordan and David kisses Barzillai goodbye, blessing him.
The men of Israel and the men of Judah trade snide digs about who is really with David –
‘We have a greater claim on David than you have.’
their words become harsher and harsher.
David is going to have an even harder time unifying these people.

Stephen’s Address Continues –  as Stephen continues, he talks of the tabernacle under Moses, Joshua and David and then the temple built in Solomon’s time. ‘However the Most High does not live in houses made by men….You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears !’
Stephen starts to lay in to his listeners.
He accuses them of
– being just like their forefathers
– resisting the Holy Spirit
– persecuting the prophets
– betraying and murdering the Righteous One
– receiving but not obeying the law

The Stoning of Stephen – the religious leaders have heard enough, they ‘gnashed their teeth at him’ in anger and frustration.
Stephen is ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and looks heavenward, sees God’s glory, and Jesus Himself stood at God’s right hand.
‘Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
The leaders can’t listen to any more of this, and they cover their ears, rush at Stephen, and drag him out of the city to stone him.
They lay their clothes at the feet of Saul who is there ‘giving approval to his death’. (The first we know of Saul, who will become Paul).
As Stephen is being pelted with stones, close to death, he says
‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’.
Stephen falls on his knees
Stephen cries out ‘Do not hold this sin against them’
Stephen dies.

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, dies; but not before being filled with the Spirit, being given a glimpse of God, and of Jesus, in glory.
His death is inspiring, and must have challenged at least some of those who participated. Not least, Saul, whose life is about to change dramatically.

The Church Persecuted and Scattered – the very day that Stephen is murdered, a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem breaks out. The Christians are scattered far and wide, all except the apostles. Stephen is given a dignified burial and deeply mourned by the community.
‘Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.’

The period of the early church ‘enjoying the favour of all people’ in ch.2 is well gone. It is the religious leaders who doing the persecuting, it seems. God’s own people turning against God’s own people.

‘Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart….
I envied the arrogant…
their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth….
always carefree, they increase in wealth…

Surely, in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

The psalmist (Asaph) honestly wonders whether all his desire for purity and integrity has been a waste of time – the wicked seem to have a much better life….it is so good and refreshing to have the honesty in these psalms…part two of this psalm is in a couple of days…to be continued.




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